HOAs and the Fair Housing Act

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HOAs cannot discriminate against protected groups.

Whether you’re on a homeowners association board, are a current homeowner, or are looking to buy into an association, you need to be aware of how the Fair Housing Act affects you and your HOA. 

Your rights and responsibilities as an HOA

If you’re a board member on your HOA, you need to understand the Fair Housing Act as well as any additional laws your state has passed in conjunction with the federal act. The act states, with regard to the sale and rental of housing, that no one can be denied a dwelling, refused a rental, or refused the ability to sell or rent housing (among other stipulations) based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or handicap.

With regards to disabled homeowners or renters, the Fair Housing Act requires associations to make reasonable accommodations or modifications—and it’s important to understand the distinction. An accommodation would be a change in the HOA bylaws or rules that would enable the disabled individual to receive equal treatment within the association, such as designating a parking spot near the entrance as a handicapped space. A modification requires physical changes be made, such as building a handicap ramp to the front entrance.

If you receive a request for an accommodation or modification, you should:

  1. Ask for documentation that the person is permanently disabled. Provide the resident with a Reasonable Accommodation Request Verification form for their doctor to fill out.
  2. Determine if the request is reasonable. According to the HUD, a request is not considered reasonable if it imposes “an undue financial or administrative burden on the housing provider or it would fundamentally alter the nature of the provider’s operations.” Otherwise, the request is reasonable and must be fulfilled.
  3. Understand who will pay for any physical changes to the association grounds or property. If the modification creates a financial burden, the change can still be fulfilled—but the association has the right to require the disabled resident to pay for the requested change.
  4. Talk with an attorney. Whether you receive a request from a disabled homeowner or renter within your HOA, you should always talk with your association’s attorney first. Situations and state laws vary, and can change, so be sure to receive legal advice before approving or denying the request.

Your rights and responsibilities as a homeowner

If you are a current homeowner in an HOA, you have rights under the Fair Housing Act to request reasonable accommodations and modifications that provide you with equal treatment should you ever become disabled.

You also have responsibilities to comply with the act should you ever rent your unit. As a landlord, you also cannot discriminate against any protected class under the act, and you must provide reasonable modifications within your unit as requested by a disabled renter. If you do choose to rent your unit, be sure to talk with a real estate attorney who can help guide you through the process.

Your rights as a potential homeowner

Some HOAs require potential homeowners to complete and submit an application prior to purchasing a home in an association. This helps ensure that potential homeowners are able to pay the monthly association dues.

During this application process, you should never be asked to submit personal information or to sit through a personal interview. If you are asked for such information or feel you have been discriminated against, submit a complaint to the HUD.

This article contains general information. Individual situations are unique; please, consult your attorney before utilizing any of the information contained in this article. 

Source: HOA Leader, Colorado Homeowners Association Law, Lawyers.com, HUD
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